Niche Development Tips: CPAs with Strong Service Specialties Share Some Details about How to Make Them Grow

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* CPAs WITH DIVERSE EXPERTISE tell J of A readers what niche development techniques or processes helped them accumulate clients in a certain category. To learn about the automotive industry, for example, one firm attended automotive conferences, took dealership classes and interviewed car dealers.

* TO BUILD A FORENSIC ACCOUNTING, family law consulting practice, one firm identified others providing those services in its local markets. To position the firm competitively, it gathered information about their partners' expertise and their approach to marketing.

* BECAUSE AN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY niche requires a big investment, a firm should be very exact about what it wants the IT practice to do for the organization.

* IN LITIGATION CONSULTING be aware that opposing lawyers will look at your Web site prior to taking a deposition. Be sure your information is accurate and that you can respond to questions about it.

* IN MANUFACTURING THE PUSH TO GLOBALIZE means U.S. CPAs will have to help clients with international tax issues and finding overseas providers for some accounting and financial reporting needs.

* TO START A REAL ESTATE NICHE, a CPA firm should talk to key real estate developers and brokers in its market and find out what organizations they belong to and what service(s) they would like their CPA to provide. One CPA who became a licensed real estate broker let clients know he was doing it to provide them with better service.

The gamut of business enterprise is almost as large and varied as humanity itself, and many of those myriad companies require CPA help with taxes or bookkeeping (or getting a loan or defending against a lawsuit or planning for succession or increasing their organizations' scope, efficiency and marketability in any number of ways). Through design or, sometimes, serendipity, many practitioners acquire strengths (that is, significant experience, depth of knowledge and engagement volume) in serving one or more specialized types of businesses. We asked CPAs with diverse expertise to tell J of A readers what techniques or processes helped them go from having one or two clients in a certain category to many. Their niche development tips are the cornerstone of this roundup.

In addition, the AICPA offers concentrated development support in a number of business areas, including designations such as the ABV (see "The ABV Credential: Leading the Way," page 41), CITP and PFS (see "It Works for Them," J of A, Jan.03, page 63 and "Managing Client Assets," J of A, Jan.98, page 33). For information on obtaining specialty credentials within the accounting profession and for consulting standards guidance, see "AICPA Resources," page 48.

AUTO DEALERSHIPS

Antonio L. Argiz, CPA, is managing partner of Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Co. LLP, a Miami firm with a robust car dealership niche. The firm also has service strengths in the financial institution, technology consulting and litigation support areas. The 12-partner, 64-CPA, 140-person accounting and management consulting firm began in 1969, and Argiz--who heads the automotive sector--joined it in 1977. This is what he has to say about car-dealership work:

Getting started: The best resource to grow any business is human capital (smart, hardworking staff), and there's no shortcut to success that I know of. One way to tap into the retail automotive industry is to hire former dealership controllers.

When our firm first began providing accounting and auditing services to a handful of auto retail clients in 1972, we decided to learn the industry thoroughly. We attended automotive conferences, took classes and talked to professionals from all corners of the business. Our dealership client list is now more than 100. (For more information on serving the automotive industry, see "Kick the Tires of a New Niche," J of A, Sep.02, page 28.)

Marketing: Attendance at business and social events increases our visibility. …